Communicating layoffs: Horror stories from the front lines

MyRagan members share their “surplus-employee management” nightmares.

MyRagan members share their “surplus-employee management” nightmares

Getting “laid off” is so 2008.

Nowadays, when a manager and an employee part ways, euphemisms are thrown around to ease the pain (yeah, right): down-sizing, right-sizing, recalibrating, de-verticalization, re-verticalization, re-structuring.

Still, the term “unemployment office” hasn’t changed—nor has the sting of losing your job, your work family, your benefits, and maybe a bit of your pride. Some companies do all they can to ease the process.

Others, well, just plain stink.

With that in mind, MyRagan members shared their “surplus-employee management” nightmares:

Check your inbox
“A friend of mine was fired via e-mail.” To make it worse, it was a group distribution e-mail. “It explained the company was closing the department and a guard would be nearby to escort them out.”

Cold comfort

“My worst experience was receiving a phone call from a staffer on Friday, saying, ‘We won’t need you anymore; be out of the building with all your stuff by close of business today.’ Probably feeling guilty, he called back five minutes later to say, ‘You can have more time, the whole weekend to move, just don’t be at your desk on Monday.'”

Check, please…

“When you go to pick up the paychecks to distribute to your department and there’s not one for you in the stack…”

The stain of rejection

“I was fired from my second post-high-school job—working for a dry cleaning establishment. My boss actually said, ‘You’re not dry cleaning material.’ “

“We’re going to make a few changes around here, and one of them is you.”

Your number is up
“Fifteen years ago, I worked out of my house and received a call at 8:30 a.m. from the phone company to say that they had instructions to remove my business phone line later that day.”

A proper English goodbye

From a communicator in London: “Reducing units of liveware.”

One wonders whether communicators are the only ones struck by the tortured language of layoffs. Are the folks in the C-suite so beyond help that “reducing units of liveware” strikes them as setting just the right tone? Do they really believe this?

One thing is for certain: There is no shortage of communication nightmares on the MyRagan forum. As of Wednesday evening, members of the professional networking site had filed over three pages of stories.

This tales comes from Kamila, a UK communicator: “A friend of mine at one of the banks in the city (London) went one day for his lunch break and got shortly after a call on his mobile from the HR manager saying that his service is no longer required, and he shouldn’t be bothered to come back, his belongings will be send by post. Credit crunch victim.”

Mark, a government communicator from Calgary, shared a one-line layoff notice he received: “There are only two people at the company that can do the work we do—me and you. And it’s my company.”

But it’s the language of layoff communication that intrigues MyRagan members.

What’s up with the phrase “being let go,” asks Communication Specialist Cheryl.

“It sounds like workers have been trying to escape for years, but the company just wouldn’t allow it. “

Readers, what can you share?

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